Robert McCartney, the liberal Washington Post columnist, has done something that Chris Matthews and his fellow leftist MSNBC hosts have yet to do: attend a tea party rally without being confrontational and/or snarky. McCartney went to a tea party with an open mind last week and this is what he discovered:
I went to the "tea party" rally at the Washington Monument on Thursday to check out just how reactionary and potentially violent the movement truly was.
Answer: Not very.
Based on what I saw and heard, tea party members are not seething, ready-to-explode racists, as some liberal commentators have caricatured them.
So did McCartney suddenly become a conservative? Not really but he came away from the experience with some very positive observations about the tea party people:
...I differ strenuously with the protesters on about 95 percent of the issues.
Nevertheless, on the whole, they struck me as passionate conservatives dedicated to working within the system rather than dangerous militia types or a revival of the Ku Klux Klan.
Although shrinking government is their primary goal, many conceded that the country should keep Medicare and even Social Security. None was clamoring for civil disobedience, much less armed revolt.
...The rally, estimated in the tens of thousands, also displayed a wacky, irreverent spirit that I found endearing. I can't help but smile when paunchy small-business owners aged 50 and older don three-cornered hats and hoist rattlesnake flags in exercising their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.
McCartney should be congratulated on the open minded spirit with which he interviewed the participants in order to find out about their attitudes instead of attempting to be confrontational:
At the protest, I mostly ignored the speakers so I could probe what the participants wanted and how they viewed the world. I interviewed 19, picked at random, in three hours.
I found that I agreed heartily with the tea partiers on what is perhaps their single biggest concern: that America's swelling government debt seriously threatens our long-term prosperity.
As to those in the mainstream media, particularly MSNBC, McCartney has this comment:
Commentators on MSNBC and elsewhere have called the movement racist and likened it to the Klan.
...I didn't see evidence of racism at Thursday's rally. A sign read: "Not prejudiced. Not racist. Not violent. Not disenfranchised. Not silent anymore."
Can one even imagine Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann attending a tea party event without becoming confrontational or belligerent? McCartney went in with an open mind and, as a result, came away with an overall positive view of the participants.